Activities for the public and schools

Get involved with environmental science...

Operation Earth

Planet Earth costume

Operation Earth - external link - is a series of hands-on activities, experiments, public shows and meet-the-expert sessions for children and families, in 11 UK science centres from February 2018. The project, led by the Association for Science & Discovery Centres, will run at a science centre near you:

  1. Catalyst - external link, Cheshire and Techniquest Glyndŵr - external link, Wrexham
  2. Dynamic Earth - external link, Edinburgh
  3. Eden Project - external link, Cornwall
  4. Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre - external link, Manchester
  5. Natural History Museum - external link, London
  6. National Space Centre - external link, Leicester
  7. Oxford University Museum of Natural History - external link
  8. The Observatory Science Centre - external link, Sussex
  9. Thinktank - external link, Birmingham
  10. W5 - external link, Belfast

Public events

You can find environmental science research at national events throughout the year.

Coming up, you can see our science here:

Previous public events include:

Planet Earth

Planet Earth magazine coverThe science we support is amazing. Our researchers study every aspect of our planet, and how humans are changing it - from the poles to the tropical rainforests, and from the depths of the ocean to the edge of space. Planet Earth brings you the latest stories, pictures and videos about their work. You can also subscribe to receive Planet Earth as a regular email newsletter.

Planet Earth on Twitter - external link -

Citizen science

Anyone can take part in a research project through citizen science. Members of the public can collect valuable data, samples and information, which scientists then use in their environmental science research.

You can choose which topic most interests you, from geology to grasshoppers!

What happened to Boaty McBoatface?

200 million pounds. 15,000 tonnes. 129 metres. One name.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough will be the UK's largest and most advanced research ship yet. She will allow scientists to carry out research safely and efficiently, even through the harshest of winters, in both Antarctica and the Arctic.

Following a call for suggestions that sparked global interest, Sir David Attenborough was selected as a name that captures the ship's scientific mission and celebrates the broadcaster's contribution to natural science. The popular suggestion 'Boaty McBoatface' will live on as the name of one of the ship's high-tech remotely operated sub-sea vehicles. The Boaty sub-sea vehicle dispatches from RRS Sir David Attenborough to allow the ship's research crew to collect data and samples from the deepest waters of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Find out more about what Boaty is up to - external link - through the National Oceanography Centre.

Find out more about polar history with our timeline - external link.

Cartoon of Boaty McBoatface
Sub-sea vehicle being deployed from ship

Polar Explorer Programme

The Polar Explorer Programme - external link - encourages and supports schools who are keen to raise aspirations and attainment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and aims to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.


About the ship: Breaking new ground

The RRS Sir David Attenborough's state-of-the-art capabilities will take science to new places, giving fresh insights into our fragile polar environments and how our planet works. Her flexible labs and equipment will allow our scientists to take full advantage of the latest robotic, satellite and underwater monitoring technology. She will help us understand how the ice is evolving as our climate changes, and the consequences for global sea-level rise.


Our ship

Our research ships provide a platform for scientists to study across a wide range of scientific fields. From monitoring the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet to looking at ocean circulation to investigating the diversity of marine life, our research ships are kept busy throughout the year. RRS Sir David Attenborough will be able to endure up to 60 days in sea-ice to enable scientists to gather observations and data. She will be the first British-built polar research vessel with a helideck, opening up access to new locations for our scientists. She will be one of the most sophisticated floating research laboratories operating in the polar regions.

Off the ship, robotic submarines and marine gliders, including Boaty McBoatface, will collect data on ocean conditions and marine biology and deliver it to scientists working in the ship's laboratories. Airborne robots and on-board environmental monitoring systems will provide detailed information on the surrounding polar environment.

Drawing of the RRS Sir David Attenborough

Launching in 2019

RRS Sir David Attenborough is being built in Birkenhead by Cammell Laird. The decision followed a 12-month competitive tender process that involved bids from companies in the UK, Europe and the Far East. This project will secure jobs and apprenticeships and provide a significant economic boost to Merseyside. The shipyard is expected to cut steel in autumn 2016 and deliver the next generation polar research vessel ready for operation by 2019.

The ship will be the first British-built polar research vessel with a helideck to open up new locations for science and will be one of the most sophisticated floating research laboratories operating in the polar regions. Tonne for tonne, the UK will have the most advanced oceanographic research vessel fleet in the world.

Find out more about the progress of building the RRS Sir David Attenborough - external link - through the British Antarctic Survey.

Find out more about the impact of the new polar ship on jobs, skills and the shipbuilding industry in this video about building the RRS Sir David Attenborough - external link.

Educational resources

We work with a number of partners to provide free resources that can enrich lessons in the classroom, demonstrate real-life science and enthuse young people about the science we support.


Resources for teachers


YouTube videos

NERC has a YouTube channel - external link with many videos about the science we fund - some have been made by our own researchers, and others with professional film crews - all of them provide an insight into the work we do and are a good introduction for teaching environmental science topics.


Radio shows for children

We have worked with FunKids Radio to produce a series of short radio clips for children about the oceans and the life within them, and climate change. You can listen online on the FunKids website - external link.


Careers and work experience

If you are interest in gaining some work experience in environmental science, your local university's environmental sciences department may be able to help. Alternatively, please contact one of NERC's research centres:

Find out more about careers in environmental science.